First things first, this ain't Mr. Holland's Opus. No, no, this film is more grandiose than that"”this film is more of a musical intervention. The Sundance '14 opening night film, appropriately titled Whiplash, is about musical intuition.
First time director Damien Chazelle makes an impressive debut with Whiplash, based on a short with the same title. The film tells the tale of a passionate young drummer named Andrew, played wonderfully by rising star Miles Teller, who is accepted into one of the most prestigious music programs in the nation. He listens to the great jazz percussionists, most notably his idol Buddy Rich, and most of all practices his own craft until the skin falls off the palms of his hands into a bloody crescendo onto his drum-kit.
Andrew is overshadowed by his over- zealous, foul-mouthed music teacher Mr. Fletcher, played by the great J.K. Simmons. Mr. Fletcher believes in pushing his students to the brink of insanity with his interrogation-esque displays where instruments are flung around the room, sometimes at his student's heads. Perfection is not asked; it's demanded. So much so I couldn't help but compare Mr. Fletcher's tactics to an army boot camp.
Mr. Fletcher pushes Andrew further and further into musical delirium so that Andrew becomes just as self-righteous as Mr. Fletcher. In the process, this alienates him to achieve musical greatness, but what is the cost of his musical greatness; better yet, how is greatness measured?
*Winner of the U. S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic and Audience Award: U. S. Dramatic